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Two Ways AI Can Impact Your Email Campaign and What to Do About It

email marketing strategy

Email campaigns have traditionally been marketer’s direct way of reaching their customers. In the modern digital age, however, this approach has become increasingly complex.

As brands utilize email marketing to engage with consumers, what many marketers don’t realize, however, is that the mailbox provider can play a huge role in how effective email marketing is.

As marketers, we often forget that a mailbox provider’s priority is serving the user, not you. This means ensuring their users get a great email experience. And since the number of email users has exploded from 1 million in 1995 to 2.5 billion in 2015, more and more work must go into ensuring this experience continues to improve.

To help with this, mailbox providers rely on artificial intelligence (AI) to better serve users. But this has a big impact on email marketers. The technology determines whether a message is spam or legitimate, and ultimately whether it reaches the inbox or not. It even sorts the messages a user receives into categories according to its content.

In essence, AI has become the determinant for success when it comes to email marketing. Now more than ever, marketers must understand how AI impacts their efforts to communicate with their list. By being armed with this knowledge, marketers can build smarter campaigns that result in better metrics. But, in order to do this, marketers must understand two main ways AI impacts email marketing — deliverability and engagement.

#1: The Impact of AI on Email Deliverability

AI powers the spam filters for mailbox providers. While their algorithm used to be less complicated, the AI filters of today utilize a variety of factors to make their determinations as to whether an email is considered spam or not.

Unfortunately, the system still has its faults. Each day there are perfectly valid emails that still get sent to the spam folder.

Although we have an understanding for some of the ways these filters go through email, most of these rules are still relatively unknown. Since the AI systems that power mailbox providers are proprietary and the systems are continually tweaking and improving the rules, it is difficult to strategize against. This creates a problem for marketers when working to reach user mailboxes.

It’s similar to Google’s AI-powered search. Most marketers know some best practices and closely watch what updates the company makes to adapt to them. While mailbox providers like Google may provide some general guidance to help increase the chances of deliverability, the full list of factors that AI uses to classify email campaigns isn’t public knowledge. This matters for marketers more than most realize. It’s important to not only keep these guidelines in mind, but also remember that before adjusting anything else, you must solve for deliverability.

#2: AI and How Users Engage With Email

Artificial intelligence can also determine how users are engaging with the emails you are sending. In order to understand this fully, let’s use Gmail as an example.

When an email is sent, Gmail’s AI sorts it into various categories based on past behavior and what the email itself contains. If Gmail decides your email is not spam, it will then place your email into one of the following three inbox categories: Primary, Social/Promotions and/or Updates/Forums.

As a brand, you may not have much control over where Gmail or other providers sort your email. It’s also important to remember that the way email providers sort emails is always changing as AI adapts to signals from user behavior. For example, if a user constantly takes your email from the Social inbox and places it in the Primary inbox, Gmail’s AI will learn to place your related emails automatically into the Primary inbox going forward.

In order to be successful, marketers need to implement long-term email strategies that will help their emails not only get into the inbox, but also create value for their users. Marketing teams must also keep in mind what the users want and not simply the messages they want to convey.

What Marketers Can Do

We’ve seen the power that AI holds over emails. But what can marketers do to minimize its impact?

There are a variety of tools available to help email marketers maximize their deliverability like Validity’s Sender Score tool. However, we recommend starting with working to ensure your content provides quality for your customer base and that you are keeping in mind as many of the general guidelines as possible. From there, you can use existing email tools to take your strategy to the next level.

While AI continues to impact the way marketers are developing their strategies for the long term, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn how to adapt our work in the process.

    Brianna Connelly | Co-Founder, Director & Head of Strategy, The Lumery’s


    Brianna Connelly
    Director Of Engineering at Validity Inc.
    Brianna leads amazing teams of Software Engineers, Data Scientists and Data Engineers to create customer solutions. She is currently the Engineering Manager at Va;idity Inc with a focus in data architecture design, statistical quality control and process strategy.

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